“Perfectionism came in as well [during the engagement]. But if my number one priority is to evolve then there are no mistakes.” – Alanis from the Interview
Lesson Four of the Conscious Weddings E-Course is “What if These Feelings Mean I’m Making a Mistake?” or “Accepting Uncertainty”. It’s a scary question to ask during an engagement, but a natural outgrowth of the fear, grief, and confusion that accompany the transition in a culture that doesn’t understand transitions. In other words, if you expected to feel scared during your engagement, you wouldn’t mistakenly interpret the fear as a sign that you’re making a mistake.
But what is a mistake? As Alanis speaks to in her quote above, in the context of growth there are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn. Astonishingly, she seemed to know this at the age of 19 when she released “You Learn”:
I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone
I recommend walking around naked in your living room
Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
Wait until the dust settles
You live you learn
You love you learn
You cry you learn
You lose you learn
You bleed you learn
You scream you learn
I recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone
I certainly do
I recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time
Throw it down (the caution blocks you from the wind)
Hold it up (to the rays)
You wait and see when the smoke clears
Wear it out (the way a three-year-old would do)
Melt it down (you’re gonna have to eventually anyway)
The fire trucks are coming up around the bend
You grieve you learn
You choke you learn
You laugh you learn
You choose you learn
You pray you learn
You ask you learn
You live you learn
Alanis writes poignantly about another key point that I try to impart to my clients and audience: A life fully lived involves taking risks, and there is no greater risk to the heart than committing to marriage. When you marry, there are no guarantees, there are no definite answers, there are no foregone conclusions. You assess the relationship to the best of your ability (Are we good partners? Does the relationship basically work? Do we like and love each other?) and make the choice to jump off the cliff together. Is it scary? Yes! Is jumping out of a plane or going into labor scary? Yes! Is there risk involved? Absolutely. But you cannot grow and evolve in life without taking risks. In other words, in order to move forward with the commitment of marriage, you have to be willing to “fail”.
But again, what does “fail” mean? It’s only the perfectionist that thinks there’s a right or wrong answer or a right or wrong way to have a marriage. You jump off the cliff and trust that the parachute will open. You breathe into the fear and say yes anyway. And it’s the perfectionist that thinks that because you said yes to the proposal, you have to continue with the wedding plans. It’s okay to postpone. It’s okay to cancel. Whatever path you choose, you will learn.
But the vast majority of my clients push past the fear and choose to marry. And the choice to love involves risk because love includes the possibility of loss. That’s the bottom line. When you open your heart completely to another human being – whether it’s a partner, a family member, or a child – you open yourself to the possibility of the greatest pain we can know as human beings. Why take the risk? Because the chances of loss are slim and the simple joys garnered from a life fully lived are unparalleled.
Sheryl Paul, M.A., is regarded as an international expert in transitions. In 1998, she pioneered the field of bridal counseling and has since counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, “The Conscious Bride” and “The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner,” her websites, www.consciousweddings.com and www.consciousmotherhood.com, and her blog, https://conscious-transitions.com. She has appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top television, radio, and newspapers around the globe. Phone and Skype sessions are available internationally for all types of transitions and ongoing counseling. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two young sons.